Woyzeck (Tom Waits musical)

The Pump House, 544 Tuam St, Christchurch

14/04/2023 - 29/04/2023

Production Details

Direction and adaption - Peter Falkenberg
Original Direction - Robert Wilson
Music and Lyrics - Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan

Free Theatre Christchurch

Tom Waits’ musical Woyzeck at The Pump House

“If there’s one thing you can say about mankind, there’s nothing kind about man” – Tom Waits

Roll up, ladies and gentlemen! A dark carnival is coming to town.

A fairground sideshow in an army barracks, Free Theatre presents the Tom Waits musical Woyzeck. Our military band will pump out rousing surrealistic songs and other entertainments providing sarcastic comments on the human condition and the act of civilization.

The third in the acclaimed Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan and Robert Wilson musicals, which began with The Black Rider and Alice, Woyzeck is a “fragmented, nightmare-like fable”.

Tom Waits says:
“…it’s like a hammer or it’s a tool or it’s a vehicle. It deals with madness and children and obsession and murder – all the things that we care about and care about now as we did then. It’s wild and sexy and curious and catches your imagination and makes you wonder about the people in it and it makes you reflect on your own life.”

The story shows how a good man is turned by society into a murderer. In our version Woyzeck is played by a woman. This gives the actor the opportunity to also explore man and male behaviour, discovering that “man is an abyss – you get dizzy when you look down into it“ (Georg Büchner, the original playwright).


Friday 14th April 8.00pm
Saturday 15th April 8.00pm
Wed 19th April 8.00pm
Thurs 20th April 8.00pm
Fri 21st April 8.00pm
Sat 22nd April 8.00pm
Wed 26th April 8.00pm
Thurs 27th April 8.00pm
Fri 28th April 8.00pm
Sat 29th April 8.00pm

Location: The Pump House, 544 Tuam St
Tickets: $25/$40 www.freetheatre.org.nz

For media enquiries and interview requests contact Marian McCurdy marian@freetheatre.org.nz / 021 025 61384

Woyzeck is supported by the generous donations from our Boosted community fundraising campaign in May 2022; The Lion Foundation; Aotearoa Gaming Trust; Pub Charity; Creative Communities Christchurch and the Canterbury Arts and Heritage Trust (CAHT).

Woyzeck- Hester Ullyart
Marie - Hillary Moulder
Andres - Tom Trevella
Carnival Barker / Drum Major - Aaron Boyce
Monkey / Horse / Captain - Chris Carrow
Margret - Greta Bond
Doctor - Marian McCurdy
Musicians - Reuben Derrick, Sam White, Nicole Reddington, Doug Brush

Design - Stuart Lloyd-Harris
Costume and Make-up - Jenny Ritchie
Production - Marian McCurdy

Musical , Theatre ,

90 mins approx

Reveals the essential tackiness of much we associate with power and influence

Review by Lindsay Clark 18th Apr 2023

The dark vision of the nineteenth century original and its uncompromising critique of the powerful in society aligns perfectly with the theatrical strengths of the Free Theatre company. It is the third production of the Waits/Brennan/Wilson trilogy. Those fortunate enough to have experienced earlier seasons (The Black Rider and Alice) will not be disappointed. It is fertile home territory for director Peter Falkenberg and a familiar ensemble of talented creative spirits.

The plot line itself does not surprise us, even after a century of so-called social reform and progress. Privilege and power signal a hierarchy and the bottom rung is very uncomfortable. A humble soldier, Woyzeck is trying to live virtuously within his little world, tenderly sharing his domestic circumstances with his lover and their infant. He is amenable to the demands of Captain and associated Drum Major even when these are unreasonable and downright humiliating. His dealings with Doctor bring only further wretchedness. The worm is bound to turn.

The wretchedness is both coloured and made compelling viewing by the wry framing of the experience. A carnival barker and monkey patrol the foyer, preparing us for the theatrical make believe to come and confirmed in a sharp introductory scene where animal nature is explored through animal exhibits, so that we have a satirical hook to human behaviour itself.

Characters are costumed and made up in colourful carnival mode (Jenny Ritchie), tuned in by a fairground band whose role in sustaining the effect is imperative. The venue itself, a heritage pump house (which long ago pumped Christchurch sewage), contributes perfectly to the otherness of the occasion and allows for thrust staging with clever design opportunities (Stuart Lloyd-Harris).

Tom Waits’ music and lyrics call for full throated treatment and this, the cast provides. Aaron Boyce is a robustly imposing Carnival Barker and Drum Major, with Tom Trevella in soldier kit as Andres, pumping things along with gusto. Marian McCurdy’s pedantic Doctor and Chris Carrow as Monkey, Horse and Captain securely advance the exploration, with Greta Bond as Margret, bringing a female voice to the parade.

Love can usually be relied upon to sweeten the medicine. Here, the excellent central pairing of Marie (Hillary Moulder) and Woyzeck (Hester Ullyart) does provide some tenderness but is also at the climax of the performance where, in spite of his struggles to follow a righteous path, the hapless fellow becomes a murderer. Played here by a woman, it is somehow more shocking and therefore effective than were it undertaken by a burly bloke.

Truly, as a species, we are best to admit the essential tackiness of much we associate with power and influence. A fairground has its entertainment but we should be aware of the reality behind the trappings. 


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